Thursday, 19 September 2019 05:25

Bye Week: Raiders always working toward 'what's next' as SAC schedule approaches

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Richmond's special teams units line up during punt drills during Monday's practice. Richmond's special teams units line up during punt drills during Monday's practice. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — With the first third of the 2019 football season in the books, Raider head coach Bryan Till is positive the best is still yet to come for his team and Richmond fans.

A 4-0 sweep through non-conference play by the varsity team saw the Raiders go perfect in the early-season slate for the first time in Till’s three seasons. In four games played, save for two quarters not played against Anson High School, Richmond has outscored its opponents 168-42.

The offense, led by junior quarterback Caleb Hood, senior running back Jaheim Covington and junior wide receivers Jakolbe Baldwin and Dalton Stroman, has scored 42 or more points in three games, averaging exactly 42.0 points per contest, and notched a season-high 48 points in Week 1 over Clayton High School.

Hood has broken three program records this fall, and leads the team with 13 total touchdowns (nine passing, four rushing). Covington continues to be a power back that punishes defenses and junior Jaron Coleman has been a nice addition in the backfield, bursting for a program-best 95-yard rushing score in Week 2.

Impressively, the Raider offense has recorded 19 plays of 20+ yards (13 through the air) and six plays of 40+ yards (three passing and three rushing).

To switch sides of the ball, a stifling Raider defense is allowing just 10.5 points per game, and recorded shutouts in the first two weeks against Clayton and Anson. Against tough Butler and Cardinal Gibbons high schools, the defense gave up just six touchdowns.

Five players have 19 or more tackles on defense — junior CJ Tillman (21), seniors Dereck Barringer, Dre Bethea and Gavin Russell (20 each) and senior Joerail White (19). A total of 36 tackles for loss have resulted in 15 sacks, with senior Javon Little leading the way with four.

There are many more statistics that could be rattled off to catch the eye of fans in the stands, but for Till, while his team has had a solid start to its season, he’s putting the Raiders under the microscope to help them get better as Sandhills Athletic Conference play approaches.

“I’m pleased with this season so far because we’re 4-0, which means we can check that box,” Till explained. “But for us, it’s always ‘what’s next?’ Our bye week is all about improving and we’re working on some skills we need to get better at, specifically individual skills.

“As a coaching staff, we’re breaking down different areas and looking at the smaller things,” he continued. “This week is more about how we change coverages, attack coverages with route running, how to improve our blocks and where our feet need to be to make better tackles.”

It’s this mentality of fine-tuning the often overlooked necessities by the public that Till hopes to see pay off against SAC teams. He noted that playing a variety of non-conference teams from across the state with differing schemes showed “where people may try to attack us” and how important the need is for depth on the team, including the “next man up” mindset when dealing with injuries.

“The kids’ ownership of the season and how they want to improve every single day has been satisfying,” Till shared. “They’ve been giving ideas of what they need to do better on, and I’m most proud of that.”

The Raiders have been hard at work this week, continuing their daily grind on the practice fields behind the school. Whistles, position groups, special teams and team meetings are carrying on like a normal game week, but Richmond will get a well-deserved Friday night off this week.

Up next for Richmond will be Purnell Swett High School in the SAC opener on Friday, Sept. 26, at home. Although accessing film of the seven other conference schools has been limited, Till said the records of several teams speak for themselves and that the SAC “is always a very competitive conference.”

Currently, Jack Britt, Pinecrest and Scotland high schools join Richmond by entering SAC play with perfect records. Seventy-First and Hoke County high schools have 3-1 records, Lumberton High School is 2-2 and only Purnell Swett is winless (0-3).

A season ago, the Raiders ran the table with an undefeated conference record and earned their first conference crown since 2010. They’ll look to do it again, and Till noted all eyes are forward despite there being a target on his team’s back.

“We don’t feel that pressure and we are just going to focus on ourselves,” Till said. “The drive is always ahead and if we start worrying about other teams, we’re not in the right place.

“The goal from here on out is to win — that’s it,” he closed. “We aren’t going to let any pressure get to us or worry that another team is going to take (the conference title) away from us. It’s our job to win, and if we do our best, the wins will take care of themselves.”

A season ago, Richmond outscored its seven SAC opponents 277-37 for an average of 39.6 points per game on offense and 5.29 points per game allowed on defense. The Raiders scored 53 points against Hoke County in a shutout win, and three of Richmond’s four shutouts on the season came in conference play (Hoke County, Pinecrest and Purnell Swett).

Raider Nation can watch the No. 1-ranked Raiders host the Rams on Friday, Sept. 26, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.

Last modified on Thursday, 19 September 2019 09:11

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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